Celebrating Navratri with my friends in Delhi was so much fun that I wished the festival lasted more than nine days! As we walked around the carnival, eating junk food and riding the carnival style rides, I felt like I could have been at the county fair back home, only the crowd was much more colorful and the event had some religious significance.
Navratri is a Hindu celebration in India that shows devotion to Durga, their goddess of power. Every day participants celebrate a different form of the goddess, and on the 10th day they celebrate Dussehra, which is also known as Vijay- Dashmi. Dussehra is celebrated to honor the victory of the mythical King Lord Rama over the King of Sri Lanka, Ravana.
The two most famous rituals are called “Paath” and “Durga Aarti.” An Aarti is an ancient practice of singing hymns as a tribute to a goddess or god. The ninth day often features stage shows and plays to honor the story of Lord Rama and then the worshippers bid farewell to the goddess Durga. It is followed by the ritual of “kanya-pujan,” when little girls are given food and sweets.
As is generally the case in India, festivals are celebrated differently depending on the region, and Navratri is no exception. In North India, the festival continues for nine days and includes prayer, fasting and refraining from alcohol and non-vegetarian food. In the western state of Gujarat, Navratri is celebrated with much more fun and zeal, and the most popular dances are performed by colorfully clothed men and women.
As for me and my friends, we didn’t care much about the religious significance. For us it was just about getting together to have a good time. Our night started out a bit rough however as we got caught in even worse traffic than normal. It seemed like half of Delhi was out celebrating. It took us over two hours to get where we were going and then almost another whole hour to find parking. Then I had to stand in a very long line for female security so we could go behind a curtain to get patted down and our handbags checked. Needless to say, it took a lot longer than the men’s line. I found Kirti patiently waiting for me on the other side and it was officially time to start having fun.
By that time it was about 9:00 at night and we were starving. So, we filled our bellies with typical festival style junk food including ice cream and cotton candy. The ice cream, called Kulfi, came in a giant circular brick being rotated on a spit. The servers shaved off little strings of it for us into a bowl. The result was delicious! We also enjoyed Kullia, which is an Indian style of fruit salad that includes various fruits and sweet potato topped with pomegranate seeds, shaved beet root, and sprinkled with lemon and masala seasoning. It was a little too sour for me. Indians put masala on everything. They even put masala seasoning in their lemonade!
After we ate we headed for the festival rides. If you want to add a new level of danger to a carnival ride, go on one in India! I tried not to think about how old the rides were, the lack of insurance and most likely the lack of professional maintenance. We went on the scrambler, dragon and other rides that I recognized from back home. It was such a blast! In fact it was the most fun I’ve had in India in a very long time. Right before we left we watched some of a show performance on a beautifully decorated stage. I didn’t understand a word of it, but I was captivated by the elaborate set, elegant costumes and extraordinary singing. It was a fun and memorable night and I’m so glad I got to partake in Navratri while in India.